It would be difficult to imagine a major season bookended by two more memorable results. Tiger at Augusta and Lowry at Portrush will forever be remembered as special moments in the game, even among the historic Grand Slam events.
But one unintended consequence of such thrilling highs at the most important tournaments is the harsh spotlight which is inevitably turned on the rest of the game’s events.
With 260 days until the start of the 2020 Masters, golf will now return to its week-to-week diet of mostly indistinguishable events held on mostly bland courses and culminate, in the US, with a $15million cash grab played under a handicap format.
It would be unfair – indeed undesirable – to try to replicate the excitement of the majors every week. After all, if every tournament is a major then are there really any majors?
But that doesn’t mean golf couldn’t do more (or ironically perhaps less) to make the week-to-week product more appealing.
The first and biggest problem is the length of the game’s off season. Because there isn’t one.
In every other sport fans get a chance to miss the game for some period of the year, that absence guaranteeing an enthusiasm among supporters once the season gets back underway.
“The first and biggest problem is the length of the game’s off season. Because there isn’t one.”
But not in golf. In the 2018/19 season, the PGA Tour had a break of just three weeks with the last official event of 2018 being the QBE Shootout December 7-9 and the season kicking off again in Hawaii on January 3.
Aside from the sheer volume of golf there is also a lack of imagination in formats.
On the PGA Tour, only the WGC Matchplay and the teams event in New Orleans stray from the 72-hole individual strokeplay format.
(Hat tip to the European Tour, which has at least shown a willingness to experiment with events like the World Super 6 Perth, the Jordan Mixed Open and the combined Vic Opens.)
Both Tours are guilty of overhyping their product but the PGA Tour has taken things to new heights under Jay Monahan.
The constant grouping of The Players Championship and FedEx Cup as part of some contrived ‘Major Season’ smacks of desperation at best and is offensive at worst, as is the relentless reference to a player’s FedEx Cup points at every opportunity.
Despite the ‘season long points race’ never really getting much traction with fans the Tour has persisted with it for more than a decade and while their determination in that regard is to be admired their latest attempt to make it relevant is not.
Next month the Tour Championship – one of the Tour’s flagship events – will be played as a handicap event, going against every tenet of the game at the elite level.
In the wake of what we have just witnessed at Royal Portrush, the concept seems even more of a gimmick than when it was first announced.
Golf is unquestionably the greatest game of all and professional golf is important to its health and its future.
But those in charge of it need to remember that they exist to support the game, not the other way around.
Rod Morri is founder of the TalkinGolf Podcast Network, home of the State of the Game, iSeekGolf, TalkinGolf History and Feed The Ball podcasts.
Visit www.talkingolf.com for more information and to subscribe.